Sunday, 4 April 2010

Porter's last hurrah

I've been very busy. Doing primary research. Scouring brewing records, transcribing Whitbread Gravity Book entries. That sort of exciting stuff.

I tried to persuade Andrew to help: "It'll be good practice for when you study history at university."

"Do your own work, dad. Anyway, I've decided to study film editing."

It was the first I'd heard of his change in plans. Damn. I'd hoped to get him as a free research assistant. And he doesn't need money, so bribery is out of the question. No alternative but to do it myself.

If I weren't such an obsessive, it would be a daunting task. I reckon it'll take another two or three weeks to finish off the Whitbread Gravity Book. And two to three months to finish extracting details from brewing records. Finished for the time being. I'll photograph a load more in May.

But enough of my complaining. Time for numbers. Lovely old, dusty numbers, fresh from the number mine.


Porter in the 1920's
Year
Brewer
Beer
Price
size
package
FG
OG
ABV
attenuation
1921
Charrington
Porter
7d
pint
draught
1009.6
1041.1
4.09
76.64%
1922
Barclay Perkins
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1011.5
1035.5
3.10
67.61%
1922
Barclay Perkins
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1013.2
1040.2
3.49
67.16%
1922
Cannon Brewery
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1010.2
1036.2
3.37
71.82%
1922
City of London
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1008.8
1037.3
3.70
76.41%
1922
Courage
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1010.2
1037.7
3.56
72.94%
1922
Hoare
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1011
1037.3
3.41
70.51%
1922
Lion Brewery
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1008.2
1040.2
4.16
79.60%
1922
Mann Crossman
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1007
1034
3.51
79.41%
1922
Mann Crossman
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1009.6
1040.3
3.99
76.18%
1922
Taylor Walker
Porter

pint
draught

1038.5


1922
Truman
Porter

pint
draught

1037.5


1922
Watney
Porter

pint
draught

1036.8


1923
Barclay Perkins
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1012.8
1039.8
3.49
67.84%
1923
Cannon Brewery
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1009.4
1034.9
3.30
73.07%
1923
City of London
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1012.4
1038.4
3.36
67.71%
1923
Courage
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1013.2
1043.2
3.89
69.44%
1923
Courage
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1012.2
1036.7
3.17
66.76%
1923
Hoare
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1009.8
1034.5
3.20
71.59%
1923
Lion Brewery
Porter
6d
pint
draught
1010
1039
3.76
74.36%
1923
Mann
Porter

pint
draught

1039.9


1923
Mann
Porter

pint
draught

1037.2


1923
Truman
Porter

pint
draught

1038.8


1923
Watney
Porter

pint
draught

1035.8


1923
Wenlock
Porter

pint
draught

1035.2


1923
Whitbread
Porter

pint
draught

1034.2


1926
Barclay Perkins
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1038.1


1926
Cannon
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1038.8


1926
Charrington
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1036.2


1926
City of London
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1037.6


1926
Hoare & Co
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1039.8


1926
Huggins
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1040.8


1926
Mann Crossman
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1041.2


1926
Meux
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1037.4


1926
Smith Garrett
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1035.1


1926
Taylor Walker
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1039.9


1926
Truman
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1038.7


1926
Whitbread
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1038.6


1927
Cannon
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1040.1


1927
Charrington
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1035.6


1927
Courage
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1037.6


1927
Truman
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1038.4


1927
Whitbread
Porter
5d
pint
draught

1031.9


1928
Courage
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1013.2
1038.3
3.24
65.54%
1928
Hoare
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1013.4
1037.9
3.17
64.64%
1929
Courage
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1012.8
1037.4
3.18
65.78%
1929
Hoare
Porter
5d
pint
draught
1009.2
1038.3
3.78
75.98%
1929
Wenlock
Porter

pint
draught

1039.2



Average OG





1036.4


Sources:
Whitbread Gravity Book
Truman Gravity Book

Before some smartarse points out the average doesn't tally with the rest of the table, I'll point out that it's for all 283 examples in the full table. Being a bit much for a blog post, I slimmed it down.

The 1920's were the last time when Porter was a mainstream beer. And only then in London. It had already disappeared from the public bars of the rest of Britain. Cheap, weak and probably only drunk by old blokes, it was in terminal decline.

Cheap. Could that have hastened its end? Before WW I Porter had been about average gravity, between 1050 and 1055. In the 1920's it was well below. Average gravity was around 1043. As you can see from above, Porter was typically about 1036.

Something similar happened to Mild a few decades later. When it became barely alcoholic as a result of WW II. I wonder if a down-market image always hastens a style to oblivion?

One other small point: all the breweries represented in the table were located in London. It's hard to imagine now that London ever had so many breweries.

6 comments:

Pivní Filosof said...

"I wonder if a down-market image always hastens a style to oblivion?"

I don't necessarily thing so. As you say earlier, only old blokes were drinking those piss weak beers (which I would be weren't packing too much taste, either), and only because it's the beers they'd always drunk. The younger generations no only weren't too keen in drinking the same stuff the geezers did, but also wanted something with a bit more taste (and perhaps alcohol).

Gary Gillman said...

Yet earlier the discussion based on Campbell seemed to be that post-war (WW II) drinkers preferred low gravity beers. I think in the end fashion rules: beers have their day and a variation of some kind takes over. Even in a conservative (small c) country, that will happen, ultimately. Something along these lines may be developing in Ireland, last hold-out of stout. Fortunately, craft brewing has brought back great porter and stout.

Gary

zythophile said...

According to Michael Jackson, wheat beer in the 1970s (?) in West Germany was drunk only by little old ladies sitting in bars on their own, rather like milk stout in the 1960s (think Ena Sharples, for those of you old enough to remember). Then young drinkers picked it up because it looked so different from the Helles and the like, and away it went … So if that's true, no, your beer's not inevitably doomed if its image has gone downhill. But I think that's the exception to what is probably a general rule.

Boak said...

I find it hard to believe, given the ubiquity of weissbier now that it had "almost disappeared" 40 years ago. But the, who would have thought that pear cider would become popular enough to be worth raising the duty on?

I think you could see porter making a comeback as a trendy London thing. Fuller's and Meantime are already onto it.

Ron Pattinson said...

Boak, Weissbier did indeed make a spectacular comeback. That sort of thing seems to happen when a beer has been out of fashion for so long, any negative connotations have been forgotten.

It would be great if Porter did make a comeback in London. Fuller's Porter seems to go down well, when it's available.

Ron Pattinson said...

Pivni Filosof, the beers that became popular in the 1920's weren't necessarily any more falvoursome than Porter or, in many cases, much stronger. I believe it was more to do with fashion than seeking a beer with more flavour.